Could one inherently replace an external USB 3.0 hard disk drive (independently of the capacity) with a (e.g. 256 GB) 3.0 USB Stick? Would that be useful? Are there any drawbacks (speed, fault liability, data security)?
Depending on the flash memory chip, these chips have a wear life. If the flash memory is being written to a lot, the cells that hold the electron state in the memory won't be able to retain that electron. Therefore rendering that memory cell useless and corrupted. This is a real issue with consumer grade flash memory. I personally have had 2 USB flash sticks wear out/corrupted due to usage. In one case it was a 8 GB stick which I used as an OS drive for a specific Linux based application. I wore out that USB drive in about a month's time. I can't get any OS to recognize it as a writeable drive any more. The other USB thumb drive has an area where if you write to that section, the data doesn't get transferred and errors pop up. I also had a SD card wear out which was only used in one of my digital cameras.
Solid State HDs are built on the same principles as flash memory. The difference is in the quality of the flash memory chips used in them and also additional technologies such as wear leveling algorithms which are not a part of standard flash memory. I received some test samples of Intel's PCIe NVMe SSD drives (P3608). The drives are 1.6TB in size (technically two 750 GB SSD drives). These SSD drives have 3 DWPD rating which means these drives are rated to sustain 3 diskful writes per day for 5 years. Intel is guaranteeing these drives will be reliable if written to 1.6TB x 3 per day every day for 5 years.
It's not about the heat. It's about the write cycles experienced by the flash memory cells. The more the cells are written to, the more wear on the semiconductor gate which traps the electron to indicate a stored bit. As the cells are written to more and more, the semiconductor gate loses it's ability to contain that electron which results in a failed memory cell.
It could. It all depends on your use case. You'll have to make a determination on that. If it's a situation where you're buying a high quality thumb drive and doing mostly reads and very little writes, the thumb drive could work. This is also provided the data is also backed up somewhere too or you're not concerned about any loss of data.
Yes. For that application you're just doing multiple reads and the thumb drive wont see many writes. The only time would be when you load movies or delete and copy different movies onto the thumb drive. In my situation, the thumb drive I used was the OS volume and it got crushed due to the amount of writes the OS was performing to that thumb drive for system related functions.
So summing using data on a stick without a back up never is a good idea (actually having no back up always is not a good idea, but regarding to USB sticks it is a worse idea). Generally such a stick appears - that also was my impression before - to be somehow quite unstable (at least when there is heavy load / writing).
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